In the first collegiate player draft for the Premier Lacrosse League — a six-team professional league set to debut this June — Maryland men’s lacrosse defender Curtis Corley and faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen were selected 12th and 19th, respectively.
Now, having been drafted in two different professional lacrosse leagues, both players must decide whether to pursue an opportunity in the PLL or Major League Lacrosse if they continue with the sport after college.
While Corley and Henningsen weigh that decision, 23 former Maryland players have already crossed over from MLL to join the new league, which features a tour-based schedule, a media deal and gives players full-time wages — a contrast from the MLL, which does not offer such wages.
“For Curtis and Austin, we’re excited for those guys. Happy for them if that’s something they decide to do,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “Seems like a lot of our former players are very excited about that opportunity.”
Paul Rabil, a two-time MLL MVP, and his brother founded the new league wanting to better showcase the sport and its players, while also offering the athletes a direct stake in the league they play in.
The 23 Maryland alumni in the PLL represent over 14 percent of the players already on rosters. The league begins play June 1 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Since the league’s founding in 2018, over 160 players have joined the player pool.
“I just wanted to be a part of it because I just knew that vision was going to be successful,” said midfielder Connor Kelly, who played for the Terps between 2015 and 2018. “Like Maryland, it was all about the players. It was all about the people that make up the teams.”
In switching over to the new league, those players will have increased exposure because of a TV deal with NBC Sports Group. According to a league release, the deal includes two games — one being the championship — on the NBC channel. Seventeen games will be on NBC Sports Network, and 20 will be on the subscription service NBC Sports Gold.
Joe Walters, an attackman at Maryland from 2003 to 2006 who ranks second in program history for goals, believes the extra publicity can help the league gain prominence. Right now, he said, Division I lacrosse stands as the pinnacle of lacrosse.
“To be on TV, there’s no substitute for it,” Walters said. “To have people all over the country — all over the world — watching us play, that’s going to do big things for lacrosse. And I think things like that will help our sport get to that next level.”
Twenty of the 23 Maryland players in the league will play on the same team — the Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club — as the roster construction was designed to generate fan affiliation and a familiar playing style between players, a league spokesperson said.
The Whipsnakes roster will bring Terps from different eras alongside one another. Two of the players graduated in 2009, four players are from the 2018 team and 14 more are scattered between that span. Corley and Henningsen from Tillman’s latest squad may join the league before long, too.
“It is going to be fun playing with guys that I played with in the past, or I never got a chance to play with,” midfielder Mike Chanenchuk said, a Terp from 2012 to 2014. “It’s almost going to be like going back to one of those Maryland alumni games.”